BLACKSMITHING, to some people, is the stereotypical gentleman hunched over a scorching forge creating horseshoes from scratch. In the medieval era, a blacksmith was an incredibly important member of society, with techniques witnessed in every castle, home, stable or building in the community.

As the clock slowly turned, communities saw less generational, blacksmithing businesses as industrial manufacturing increased in the Victorian era.

So, why has the trend suddenly increased in the 21st century? In a developing world of environmental awareness, blacksmithing has become so much more.

“Every action has a consequence,” said Piers Edsall, a modern-day blacksmith based in a 13th century workshop, near Terrington.

“Some people have developed an environmental disrespect for the world around us; tonnes of unwanted materials, such as furniture, are regularly thrown into a landfill – and for what reason?

“The trend of upcycling has increased over the last five years, with more people wanting to transform undesirable metal, glass, ceramics and wood into a purpose.

“We take donated materials, anything from old railings to CCTV cases, and design something different.

“Turning a negative into a positive, with increased environmental awareness.”

Discovering his passion for creativity while at university in Leeds, Piers moved to Plymouth to pursue a career in furniture restoration in 2012. After setting up a studio at Flamework Creative Art Facility, in Plymouth, he decided to relocate back to Ryedale for a change of speed.

A chance meeting with college friend, Steve Mason, in 2017 transformed into sister businesses Environmental Art and Environmental Smart, mixing together education within the community and bringing the traditional trade of blacksmithing into the 21st century.

Over the years, Piers and Steve have created a bike shed from old chairs and netball posts for Amotherby Primary School, a selection of seats for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and a sculpture called Yokai, which symbolises a demon created by throwing things away.

“We have seemingly skipped a generation of young tradesman,” explained Steve.

“Traditionally, practical skills like blacksmithing would be relearned throughout generations of families. Now it has morphed into a system of quick, fast and now.

“We have a responsibility towards the younger generation to teach vocational skills and nurture creativity; it’s the best way to learn.

“Climate change has inspired more recycling and craftsman are adding creativity to a once traditional trade.

“The skill of blacksmithing is always growing and changing with the times.”

Blacksmiths typically work on several pieces at a time (the birth of the phrase “many irons in the fire”).

The forge is heated to soaring temperatures of 2,000-3,000°F, before using the traditional tools of a hammer, tongs and anvil.

“There’s a constant rhythm,” Piers explains. “You have tools set up, and you work the piece until it cools down. You have the forge on, and you put in one piece and take another out. You can get lost in the work.”

Every brainstorm, every design and every conviction links to one simple motto: Make something with a purpose. The value that blacksmiths bring to a project is not the worth of the material itself, but rather what it’s transformed into by the craftsman’s hammer.

“It’s a beautiful combination of knowledge and technique combined with design, aesthetics, and execution,” Piers says.

“You build things that are pretty permanent; it takes an incredible amount of force, strength, and also care and intention.”

His advice to anyone interested in learning the craft is to just jump in.

“There is nothing wrong with having a go, find the reasons why you should do it, and make a move toward it.

“Teaching workshops is rewarding, especially with children, you can see their eyes light up at the prospect of trying something new.

“It gives them permission to play yet teaches the importance of recycling.

“Creativity is important within a time of budget cuts, me and Steve are always looking for funding to bring our projects into the community.”

Does blacksmithing have a future?

“Blacksmithing is a strange profession yet will always be vaguely relevant.”